The Peoples Democratic Party in the South-East is reaching out to the leadership of the party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to ensure that the PDP standard-bearer picks his running mate from the zone, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered that the leadership of the party in the South-East argued that having failed to cede the presidential ticket to the zone, which had consistently supported the PDP since 1999, the only thing left for the party was to cede the vice-presidential slot to it.
Atiku had in May emerged the winner of the PDP presidential primary after defeating other aspirants including a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim and an ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa.
After the PDP primary, the apex socio-cultural organisation for the Igbo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, criticised the party for betraying the zone.
A few days to the primary, Atiku’s running mate in 2019, Mr Peter Obi, dumped the party and joined the Labour Party on whose platform he would contest the 2023 presidential election.
There has been growing support for Obi since he joined the LP. Analysts have warned that Obi’s defection to the LP may affect the chances of the PDP in the South-East, where its presidential candidate got 1.6 million votes in 2019 against over 403,000 votes garnered by the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
The Publicity Secretary of the Anambra State PDP, Nnamdi Nwagwu, in an interview with The PUNCH, confirmed that the South-East had demanded the vice-presidential slot like the South-South.
He noted that both the PDP and the APC had sidelined the South-East, adding that it was only in the PDP that the zone could get the VP slot.
He added that only the VP slot could, at least, secure votes for the party in the South-East.
He said, “They (South-East leaders) are making such a demand for the VP slot. Let us see how it goes. They are making the demand because every party has sidelined the South-East and it is only in the PDP that they can get the VP slot because they cannot get it from the APC as the APC already has a southern presidential candidate.
“Only the VP slot can secure votes for the party in the zone, if not, it will be difficult to wrest the votes of the region from Peter Obi. And let us see how it goes if the VP slot will be given or not.”
On its part, the Imo State chapter of the PDP said that it was not perturbed by the growing acceptability of Obi in the South-East.
The Director-General of the New Media of the PDP in the state, Collins Opuruzor, said that the PDP in the region was not worried about Obi’s candidature.
He said that the party was mobilising for the victory of the PDP not only in the South-East but also across the country.
Opuruzor said that the PDP presidential candidate could win the presidential election in 2023.
When contacted, the National Vice-Chairman of the PDP (South-East zone), Chief Ali Odefa, said, “I’m not the National Chairman of the party to comment on this. Contact the National Chairman of the party for this, please.”
But the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologbunagba, in an interview with one of our correspondents, dismissed Obi’s popularity.
On whether the party considered Obi’s growing support as a threat, Ologbunagba said, “When we talk about popularity, that is your assessment and you are entitled to it. When we get to the polls, the popularity will reveal itself.
“We are not talking about somebody’s popularity. That is not what we are talking about. We are focused on our party. That is the important thing. We are focused on what we are doing and what we will do for Nigerians. We are focused on insecurity, our kids being out of school for one year.”
Also, a former presidential aspirant of the PDP, Sam Ohuabunwa, said in picking a running mate, the party would choose somebody who could bring votes.
He stated, “The PDP leadership will do a lot of hard work and will not just focus on dividing the so-called Obi’s votes in the South-East and while he may also have followers outside his region, we are not sure yet. All we see now is social media hype. We cannot be sure until we get to the polls. What we read in the media may not be what happens in real life.”
But the Spokesman, Peter Obi Support Network, Sani Altukry, took a swipe at the PDP.
According to Altukry, the Peter Obi phenomenon is now a national movement and revolution that will bring an end to the PDP and the APC.
He said, “Some say it is a revolution, a present reality that will bring an end to the PDP and the APC as major political parties because they failed to do the right thing.
“They failed to address the yearnings of Nigerians for equity and justice. And they have also failed the youth of this country. The youth yearn for good government, an end to ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strike and graduate unemployment. The youth are angry that Nigeria is today the poverty capital of the world because of the PDP and the APC misrule and Peter Obi’s rallying cry to move the country from consumption to production is a rallying cry for hope.”
He added that the ‘Peter Obi Movement’ was also a protest against the injustice meted out to the people of southern Nigeria when the PDP failed to zone the presidency to the South.
“Mark my words, the PDP will receive the shock of its life as its presidential candidate will come second runner-up while Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, will emerge as a winner in the 2023 presidential election. It is quite unfortunate that the party lost its followers due to injustice,” he added.
Atiku, PDP leaders
Meanwhile, The PUNCH learnt that Atiku and the PDP leaders would meet on Tuesday (today) to decide on the southern zone the running mate would emerge from.
An Atiku’s loyalist, who disclosed this to one of our correspondents, however, declined to give details of the venue.
The PDP chieftain said, “It is the prerogative of the candidate and the party. We have not arrived at anything; that is the truth. But a decision would be made at the meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday).”
A professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Emmanuel Onyebuchi, stated that the PDP made a mistake by allowing Obi to exit the party. He said the ex-Anambra governor is so popular that political parties and their presidential candidates could not dismiss his winning capacity as a running mate.
In a related development, a ranking member of the House of Representatives, Aminu Suleiman, has stated that the APC is still in control of Kano State, adding the party and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, will get block votes in the state.
A former Governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, a few months ago, dumped the PDP and joined the New Nigeria People’s Party, where he emerged as the presidential candidate.
Many politicians in the state, including ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, have defected from the PDP and the APC to join Kwankwaso in the NNPP
Commenting on the development, Suleiman said, “What people describe as the tsunami of Kwankwaso are just the usual occurrences when elections are approaching. Mind you, those who left our party left because they either lost out at the primaries or they feared that they might lose (election).
“I concede to the fact that Kwankwanso is a household name. He is a politician of repute but I can tell you that the APC is still the party to beat in Kano.”
Speaking on the chances of the APC and Tinubu getting block votes despite the NNPP’s growing popularity, the lawmaker set the condition with which the ruling party would retain the control of Kano.
“If the APC gets its act together very well like it did in the primary and chooses a running mate that is capable of attracting votes for Tinubu and not for any primordial interest, I can tell you that it is a done deal for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
But Ibrahim Adam, the media aide to Kwankwaso, expressed optimism that the NNPP would win the presidential election. Adams, in an interview with The PUNCH, stated, “The APC and the PDP have failed woefully in taking Nigeria to the Promised Land. Based on this conviction, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso dumped the two parties.”
Youths from the North-East on Monday appealed to the leadership of the APC to consider zoning the slot for the running mate to any of the states in their region.
The youths argued that the move was necessary if the APC was serious about its plan to neutralise the threat by the PDP.
This was contained in a statement by the Chairman of the North-East APC Youth Stakeholders Forum, Haruna Sardauna, on Monday.
On its part, the Christian Association of Nigeria (Youth Wing) on Monday protested against the Muslim-Muslim ticket being proposed by the APC.
The President of YOWICAN, Belusochukwu Enwere, told journalists that the call for a Muslim-Muslim ticket by certain individuals was callous and deceptive.
Also, the Ijaw Youth Council said on Monday that it had written to the leading political parties to consider some eligible youths as running mates of their presidential candidates for the forthcoming 2023 general election.
The national spokesman for the IYC, Ebilade Ekerefe, who disclosed this at a press conference to commemorate this year’s Democracy Day in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, listed the youths to include Dr Ibrahim Bello Dauda from Borno State, Chief Igho Charles Sanomi (Delta State) and Herbert Wigwe (Rivers State).
He said the three of them were eminently qualified to occupy the vice presidency and contribute to national development, stressing that they were chosen after due consultations by youths from the Niger Delta region and the other five geopolitical zones.
According to him, the leading political parties would benefit from the choice of the suggested three names because “youths have the largest percentage ratio of the electorate and are most affected by the type of leadership produced.”
Ekerefe said, “We have written to leading political parties on the need to allow youthful personalities as vice presidential candidates. We have many youths, including Dr. Ibrahim Bello Dauda from Borno State (APC); Chief Igho Charles Sanomi, a business mogul from Agbor, Delta State; Mr Hebert Wigwe, a CEO of one of Nigeria’s leading banks from Rivers State; young qualified governors, among many others in the country”